25 May 2012

Obituary--Oliver C. Buckingham

In honored memory of some of our forgotten heroes, I am devoting the next two obituaries to a couple of our local veterans of prior wars.  And since Memorial Day came about as a day when the graves of the Civil War veterans were decorated, it is only far that the first obituary should be that of the last of Fremont's G A R members. 
 So with here is the first, from the pages of 5 January 1939 Fremont TimesIndicator.


Oliver Buckingham, Last G A R Survivor, Dies Tuesday at Grand Rapids
Was One Of Few Living Witnesses Of Gen. R. E. Lee's Surrender
Oliver C. Buckingham, the last of the few of Michigan's veterans to witness General Robert E. Lee's surrender, died Tuesday at the home of his grandson, Marvin VanBuskirk, of Grand Rapids.  He was the last survivor of the Henry Dobson post, G. A. R. of Fremont and was 92 years of age.
Mr. Buckingham was born in New York state April 23, 1847.  At that time his father was in service in the Mexican War.  His father died when Oliver Buckingham was only four years old.  When he was 15 he left school and moved to Pennsylvania where the oil boom was at its height, working for a while at Titusville and later at Oil City.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he was among the young men from the oil fields who enlisted in the service.  He was 17 at the time.  He was enlisted in company E, Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry and was sent to Washington for training.  During this stay he saw President Lincoln twice.  Within a few weeks his detachment was sent into Virginia where he was engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness.  He served under General Sherman in the south and was present to see the general make his famous ride into Atlanta.  At the close of the war he was with Grant at Appomattox and was able to give a vivid description of the surrender of Robert E. Lee;s forces to the Union General.  He said that Lee rode over on his horse and presented Grant with his sword, which Grant took and then returned to Lee, saying "General Lee, you are a brave man and a good general."  Lee then told his men to break ranks and go home to their farms.  The Union soldiers went to Richmond and were discharged.
About a year after his discharge from the cavalry he enlisted again, this time with the U. S. Navy and after a year at the Brooklyn Navy yard he was assigned to the Delaware, which made a three year cruise to South America, St. Helena, Cape Town, the East Indies, Hong Kong, Singapore and Yokohama.
Following his discharge from the navy he came to Michigan, settling in Grand Rapids where he was employed at the Grand Rapids Wagon Works and also the Grand Rapids Bending Works.  He also worked in lumber camps and in lumbering drives down the river.  His lumbering work was done around Houghton Lake, where the firm by which he was employed was cutting virgin pine.
In 1887 Mr. Buckingham moved to Fremont and with the exception of the past several winters which were spent in Grand Rapids, has made his home here.  He was married in 1978 to Maggie Burrows of Grand Rapids, who died a few years later.  In 1897 he married Mary Washburn of Grand Rapids.  Three children were born to them one of whom died at the age of 11 years.  The other two, Mrs. Ruth VanBuskirk of Grand Rapids and Julius of Detroit survive their father.  He also leaves a step-daughter, Mrs. Blanche Giles of Florida and two grandchildren, Marvin VanBuskirk and Mrs. Theresa Noneman of Grand Rapids.
Funeral services will be held tomorrow at the VanStrien mortuary in Grand Rapids and interment will be in Fairplains cemetery.

It amazes me how long lived some of the Civil War veterans were.  My own great-great-grandfather who was a GAR member as well, lived until 90.  Maybe it was the clean air and hard work.  Maybe it was genetics.  After all my GGgrandpa Armenus was the middle of three generations who lived to be 90.  Either way, those who fought and died or fought and survived were no wimps.  They saved the union and continued to wrestle out a living.  My hat goes off to them. 

I will continue with another  veteran's obituary on the "real" Memorial Day.  See you then.

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